Top Ten Tuesday: Books for when I’m sick of reading.

Nobody’s ever sick of reading, really, but the term “reading slump” makes my teeth grind involuntarily so…

Anyway, as I’ve spent god knows how many weeks now reading nothing but fanfiction, this seems appropriate. If you’re also a victim of this particular pit, my sympathies.

Since I’m rusty I’ve only done five books that I can pick up to get back into the game. I suggest reading it twice.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I can’t remember the last time I became so heavily invested in a series and a character. The only thing stopping me from reading this again right now is that there’s a whole series of them I haven’t read.

It definitely helps that the books are set in Edinburgh. As someone who works in the city I love trundling past places I’ve read about

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This is the most deliciously dark and all-consuming and evocative story I’ve read for a long time. Leigh Bardugo has created such a grubby yet gorgeous universe and set of characters.

The Disaster Artist 

the disaster artist

I’ve read this account of the filming of cult movie sensation The Room several times, and it’s still one of the few books that makes me actually wheeze with laughter. Knowledge of the movie isn’t necessary but strongly recommended.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen The Room, I’d thoroughly recommend gathering some of your closest friends and watching it. It’s the only time in my adult life I’ve come close to peeing myself.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is my ride or die. She’s my idol. Speak is a book that not only shuts me up for at least a day, but it also reinforces my belief that YA is the most vital of all genres.

The Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

the singing

Everyone’s heard me screaming about this series by now, but I love it so much and it’s my go-to when I really can’t be arsed reading anything else. I always have time for Maerad and Cadvan.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript for On the Road on a single, continuous piece of paper. In three weeks. Goals.

Because of this, the language feels like it’s dropped straight out of Kerouac’s brain into the pages, and it’s so authentic and glorious that every time I read it I feel completely alive with how great writing can be. Hugely pretentious sounding, but true.

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What other books are good for when I hit the wall? GO.

Book Spotlight | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Yes! Rejoice! I’ve finally read this book after buying it last October. I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get into, but OH BOY was my initial disappointment blown away.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat story about a heist, about feuding and crime, but that’s not even the best bit. The more I found out about the six characters – criminals, a barbaric hunter, a privileged boy – the more my heart grew and broke at the same time.

 

It had love, it had drama, it had a world so dark and grubby and evocative that I wanted to have a bath at multiple points. The characters shine through it like diamonds.

Basically, I loved it. I’ll be buying the sequel for my holiday.

Oh and also, “I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.” Hold me.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Book Spotlight | I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

iwbft

I love Alice Oseman. Radio Silence and Solitaire are both books I wish I’d had when I was in high school. Instead of trying to look at them from the perspective of the current young adult audience, these books resonate with Younger Me in a big way, and it’s both heartbreaking and pretty therapeutic.

I Was Born For This is both completely different and exactly the same.

It’s the story of how pervasive and consuming pouring your heart and soul into something can be. A band, a TV show, a book…it’s an authentic look at how how important, and how destructive these things can be when they become everything. It’s also a testament to the friends and communities that build up around things can be to someone who’s lonely or struggling. It can save lives.

So why only four stars?

This didn’t resonate with me in the same way the previous two did, which is not a fault of the book. Most of my fandom adventures were solitary, borne of loneliness in school and mental illness, and I didn’t have anywhere near the experiences of Angel and Juliet. If I’d been more heavily involved? Hell yeah, I can see another version of me in this book.

Overall, not my favourite Alice Oseman book because it didn’t hit my buttons in the specific video-game-puzzle-solving order like the previous two, but still a gr8 book. Alice Oseman is one of the very best YA authors around, and I have absolutely no doubt that pretty much everyone who’s ever used the internet will see themselves in the pages.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Six for Sunday: Favourite Books People Never Seem To Know About.

MY DUDES. My time has come.

Six for Sunday is a weekly book meme hosted by Steph at Alittlebutalot. There are so many books that I never see getting any love, so strap in, I’m about to take you on a trip through six of them.

The Entire Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

I found these books in a charity shop and have been heavily obsessed ever since. I love all of the characters, I love the plot, I love the setting, I love how heavily the arts influence the world and the lives of the people who live there and it’s just GLORIOUS.

Guitar Girl – Sarra Manning

Guitar Girl

This was one of my first, if not THE first YA book I ever owned, and I love it. My dream as a fourteen year old was to be in a band, despite having only the bare minimum of musical talent, so I lived vicariously through other mediums. Molly, the lead protagonist (and singer) of Guitar Girl writes songs about Hello Kitty and working a dead-end job and is pretty much a straight up BAMF. All the characters are so flawed and precious and it’ll break your heart and make you want to form a three-chord band. AND SO YOU SHOULD.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is my hero. Speak is a book I bang the drum for at every opportunity, but The Impossible Knife of Memory is a brilliant book. It’s the story of Hayley and her war veteran father who suffers from PTSD and traumatic flashbacks, and the struggle as they move back to their home town after a nomadic life. LHA’s books are always so authentic, and her characters so acerbic and vulnerable and Hayley is no different.

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows – Nora Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Nora Raleigh Baskin is also a QUEEN and one of the staples of my early YA reading. WEGEMK is a book about a young girl who has grown up with her father and older brother and is desperate for a stepmother so she has someone to teach her the things that all the other girls learn from their mothers. It’s a gorgeous wee book about friendship and growing up as a girl and finding out who you are. I loved it when I was eleven and I love it now.

Dogger – Shirley Hughes

dogger

This is a book that very few people seem to remember. I loved Dogger when I was really young, although it BROKE MY HEART because I was an overly sensitive child. Thank god it has a happy ending.

Based on the name people seem to assume that I’m making this book up but I’m not. Promise.

If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot

if only they could talk

I basically swallowed these whole as a child. I’m pretty sure everyone will have heard of James Herriot, but I’m not sure how many people have read his books. They’re incredibly sweet, a glorious trip through the Yorkshire countryside, and they’re so hysterically clever and witty that I challenge you read this without at least cracking a smile.

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I’m now in the mood to read all of these again. Except maybe Dogger. Probably not going to pull Dogger out on the train.

What books haven’t I heard of that I should have? Please open my eyes.

Book Spotlight | The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A soc has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is widely accepted as the first ever “proper” Young Adult book. It was published at a time when books for young adults were, as author S.E. Hinton says, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero and ends up with the boy next door and has a good time anyway.”. Or horse books.

It’s the story of a gang of “greasers”, who have a long-running rivalry with the “Socials” or “Socs” – who’re essentially the jocks in this scenario. Think Grease, but with fewer cars and lots of drama and bloody fighting instead of pink ladies and singing. Hinton was sixteen years old when she wrote it. Respect to her. When I was sixteen I could barely get out of bed and she wrote a friggin’ classic.

The Outsiders has been banned in a number of schools because it portrays gang violence, underage smoking and drinking and a bunch of other “sensitive stuff”. Ironically, Hinton points out in the edition of the book that I have that “every teenager feels that adults have no idea what’s going on”. GEE.

Banning books is dumb. Books like this can open up discussions and give young people an avenue to feel like they have a voice, instead of feeling adrift. Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, articulating the gritty, grubby, very real issues she was seeing in her school and neighbourhood. More than a few of these are still relevant today.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

tree

I think USYA gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. There’s a bit of a vibe that UKYA is a gritty, honest, dirt-under-the-fingernails look at what it’s like to be a teenager, while USYA is more like…902010 or something, with main characters played by 30 year olds that look nothing like anyone we went to school with.

As someone whose entire YA education came in the form of books sent over to me by my Auntie Fee from New York, I take issue with this. While I could slam a list onto the table, let’s look at something I read recently, courtesy of the March Wildest Dreams book box.

Far From The Tree is the story of three siblings, all given up for adoption by their mother, who find each other in their teenage years. Each of them has a different set of circumstances and background. They team up to find their birth mother, and in the process must find out where they fit into the world.

While they find each other at particularly difficult times in their lives – teenage pregnancy, the foster care and adoption system, relationship problems, family break-up and mental health are all big players in this store – the plot mainly centres on their growing relationships with each other. I hate the word “heartwarming” because it makes me cringe so hard I want to chew my own knuckles off, but it is. It’s well written, and the characters are defined by their relationships with each other, rather than their circumstances, which is nice.

I’d 100% recommend this to any young person – fifteen year old me would have binged through it. It wouldn’t have been one of my favourites (I didn’t cry like everyone else seemed to, but then I am a robot) but I can appreciate a book about finding your place in the world as much as anyone.

Rating: ***

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books My Mum Owns That I’m Totally Stealing

My mum likes books. She’s at least partly to blame for the way I am. The benefit of this is that it means I can use my parents’ house like a library, and everything she owns I like to think I can claim part-ownership of. It works both ways, but she has more room for books than I do, so…

With this in mind, here’s ten books that I’ve used this privilege to either steal or reserve.

Lion by Saroo Brierly

lion

You can read my Book Spotlight post about this book here. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

all the light

I finished reading this yesterday, after several days of nearly missing my stop on the train on the way home from work. ATLWCS switches between the two characters and two points in the war without ever being disconcerting or confusing, and it’s so heart-wrenchingly pure, underscored by the awfulness of the war. It doesn’t have a word out of place. Beautiful book.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

eleanor oliphant

You can read what I thought of Eleanor Oliphant here.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

Few things bring me shame quite like the fact that I’ve never read an Ian Rankin book. He was born 15 miles from where I live, for god sake! My fiance bumped into him coming out of Tesco in Edinburgh! Maw, please shove this book into my grubby hand next time I come round.

Never Let Me Go

never let me go

I mentioned this in last week’s TTT post. I picked it up thinking “Huh, I’ve heard so many people talk about this book, I might as well read it” and then realised very quickly that I HAD at some point read it, but I had retained absolutely nothing except the bare minimum, enough for the whole experience to be entirely deja-vu. Another surreal layer to a surreal book.

Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

northern lights

My friend Roisin had the 10/10 idea of starting a book club for the MtG UKISA judge community and this is the first book we’re reading. I am delighted, since I haven’t read any of the His Dark Materials series.

Yes, you read that correctly. Please do not cast me out into the darkness.

This is what I’m currently reading, and I understand than the book is much better than the film (Golden Compass remains one of the most disappointing cinema experiences I have ever had)

The Snow Child

snow child

I swear down every time I drift towards the bookshelves my mum as good as breaks into song over how much she loves this book. I feel like I’m morally obligated to read it, if only to stop her gently weeping every time I admit I haven’t yet.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

caged bird

I’m sure I read this years ago, but I remember nothing of it.

Sunset Song – Lewis Grassic Gibbon

sunset song

I’m on a binge of anything Scottish at the moment, half inspired by my job and half by Outlander. My mum’s owned XXXX Scot’s Quair for about as long as I can remember and she’s been telling me it’s gorgeous for as long as I can remember, but Scottish history was so cripplingly dull in school (WHY did they do that, what an injustice) that I never fancied it. Now that I’m in the mindset to read it I’m going to pinch it.

The Cider House Rules – John Irvine

cider house

I’ve been meaning to read this for years. ONE DAY MOTHER. ONE DAY.

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Have you read these? Should I break down the door to my parents’ house right now? TELL ME.

TTT: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

It might be 2018, but I read so many good books last year that I’m not done talking about them yet, so let’s live in the past for a moment.

This Top Ten Tuesday is going to be an easy one. As I said yesterday, the biggest reading slump ever came to an end, so almost every book I read in 2017 was by an author new to me. The only difficult bit was picking ten!

Alice Oseman

radio silence

Fun fact: I stumbled across Alice Oseman because I was in the process of lightly planning a book that I’d tentatively been calling “Radio Silence”. I Googled it to see what came up, and was quite distraught to discover I’d been beaten to it. I’m OK with it though, because it’s one of my favourite books, and one that I wish I’d had when I was in school. This book was my introduction back into the UKYA scene and I’m very fond of it.

Sara Barnard

beautiful broken things

Want to have your still-beating heart ripping out and solidly wrung? Read anything by Sara Barnard. A Quiet Kind of Thunder spoke to my anxiety-riddled heart and Beautiful Broken Things was so relatable that I wanted to take it out for coffee and tell it everything was going to be OK in the end.

Angie Thomas

the hate u give

The Hate U Give was my favourite book of 2017. Powerful and well-written and unforgiving. The other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s really like to be black and American. It’s a must read.

Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

I’ve always found the classics to be impenetrably dull. Likely a side effect of learning some of them in school. To christen my new Kindle at Christmas I downloaded A Christmas Carol, so I could be on flavour, and I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the lines really tickled me, particularly the one about the houses playing hide and seek.

Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

You can read my review of A Shiver of Snow and Sky here. I read it before Christmas when the weather was something like -7 degrees, there was frost on the ground so thick it looked like snow and every word was steam in the air, the Skyrim soundtrack on in the background. The ultimate experience.

Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Editing Emma was one of my favourite books on 2017. It was funny, it was brilliantly written and it had me simultaneously cringing for Emma and cringing for myself because, well…we’ve all been there.

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I LOVE FANGIRL. So brilliantly written, everything was almost tangible, the characters felt like my best friends by the end and I wanted to move in with Cath and Reagan. It was the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Alice Broadway

ink

I hadn’t even read the blurb of Ink when I picked it up. I looked at the front cover and the title, went YUP and bought it. Easiest way to my heart is a cool front cover. Really enjoyed the book as well – I’m sure I read somewhere there was going to be a sequel, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cassandra Clare

city of bones

I’d heard of the Mortal Instruments serious because I knew it was a film, and it had somehow escaped me that it was a book too. I picked up City of Bones to give it a go and…I don’t love it. I know that I’ll probably get slaughtered because it’s so well-loved but it didn’t light my fire at all. I’ll restart it at some point in the near future and give it another go, and hope it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end.

Raymond Feist

magician

This was a Sean recommendation. Sean loves high fantasy novels, whereas I can’t be doing at all with a book that takes five pages to discuss what the countryside looks like. He tried to persuade me with two books: Magician and Daughter of the Empire. Both of them I abandoned halfway through, but as I hate DNFing any book, like City of Bones I’ll likely feel compelled to have another go. Maybe I can skip the lengthy descriptions of all the trees in the garden…

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This year I’m going to be a book consuming machine, which is great in a lot of ways…but it might make next year’s list harder. Challenge accepted.